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October 24, 2008
At a 5 p.m. (Eastern) news conference today, Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood will name UA assistant Russ Pennell as interim head basketball coach, according to sources inside the basketball department.
It was previously believed that Mike Dunlap would replace Lute Olson, who retired on Friday, but Dunlap turned down the opportunity. That means Pennell will be in charge of the UA basketball team throughout the 2008-09 season.
Pennell is an ex-assistant coach at Arizona State, Mississippi and Oklahoma State, who most recently ran the Arizona Premier AAU program.
Pennell is well-respected in coaching circles, and when Olson returned to Arizona from his season-long leave of absence, he was one of his top candidates to bring on the staff.
In a May interview with GOAZCATS.com, Pennell discussed what he would bring to the Wildcats staff.
"My ability to relate to players and teach," Pennell said. "I'm the son of a high school coach who coached 48 years. I've coached with some really good coaches in Eddie Sutton, Bill Self and Rob Evans; some really good basketball minds.
"I've been around some of the best in the game and I think I can come in and learn from Coach Olson, but hopefully bring in some new ideas, too. I think my strength, if you talked to anyone who has played for me, would probably be my intensity.
"I'm pretty demanding, but I do it in a positive way. I'm not a guy who belittles kids. I think kids respect the fact that you challenge them to be their best, and I think I do that."
Players Pennell has coached include Ike Diogu and Eddie House (Arizona State) and Bryant Reeves (Oklahoma State).
It's unknown what kind of system he'll teach, or if he'll just go ahead and continue with Olson's style of play.
GOAZCATS.com will have more on Pennell, including full coverage of today's news conference.